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INTERVIEW: CIVIL CIVIC on ignoring the rules of established genres and why MI stores are essential

Laura  Barnes
INTERVIEW: CIVIL CIVIC on ignoring the rules of established genres and why MI stores are essential

MI Pro editor Laura Barnes caught up with instrumental rock duo CIVIL CIVIC to talk about making their new album, what gear they use and more.

Who are CIVIL CIVIC and how did you form?

We are myself, Aaron (Guitar, Synth), Ben (Bass, Synth) and The Box (drums). CIVIL CIVIC was born when I uploaded some demos to Myspace and then messaged Ben to see if he'd like to join in bringing it to the stage. He was foolish enough to say yes and started writing tracks too. We had our first EP out on cassette in 2009 and immediately hit the road to start playing shows.

Tell us about the new album.
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The new album is called THE TEST. It took an eternity to write and record, well about four years on and off. We record as we write from the beginning as we live in different countries, so we email demos to each other and develop them as recordings. I use Ableton Live and Ben uses Logic. Once we have a tight arrangement we will get together and re-record it all properly and mix it in Pro Tools.

This album took a long time because we wanted to expand our sound while staying true to the philosophy and spirit of the band. The first album was a collection of singles and the first EP so it came together quicker. This album was written from scratch and so is a more unified album both conceptually and sonically.

How difficult is it to work on music when you both live in different countries?

It's fine, we write individually so there's no problem. It might even be a benefit, with more time to reflect on an idea.

What are some of your biggest influences?

Everyone asks this but it's really impossible to say. It's tempting to say "oh a blend of band X,Y,Z" but that's not how it works because you're trying to make something new and you need to be inspired. I think inspiration is a better word than influence for where the drive comes from. I get a lot of ideas when I'm not trying to think about music. On trains, getting out of the city... There's little that's creative about sitting in front of a laptop when you also use it to pay bills online and scroll endlessly on Facebook. You have to stand up and leave to find the spark.

I'm inspired to make music that is progressive and as such it's always hard to describe as we intentionally ignore the rules of established genres.

What gear and equipment do you use for you live sets?

With the guitar and bass we use a lot of dynamics. From soft and clean, to wild feedback with a single switch. Bone dry to pure wet deep canyons of reverb. And silence, we use that too.

The interesting bits are a 4MS Swash pedal which I built for the insane guitar feedback. And an Eventide Space for the reverb, ran from a separate send with a volume pedal which I'm riding all the time, pumping in the verb on selected notes. I run two Fender Super60 amplifiers for stereo. Bass is a SansAmp for regular drive and a Big Muff for the huge bits, of which there are many. We both have homemade kill switches, which only activate while your foot is on them.

It’s been reported recently that there’s only been 8 number 1 singles in the UK this year and Spotify playlists appear to have a lot to do with that. What do you think of the current state of the music industry?

The way people are listening to music is changing all the time, it's certainly doesn't seem to me to be slowing down. People seem to like music as much as ever so I don't see a problem there.

Streaming is great because it's easy and creates a culture of sharing which is ultimately how music travels. Yes, you get these mega hits, but there's so much more below the surface now. The direct artist to fan capabilities of the internet have been a great force for good.

How to monetise all this has obviously been a huge issue for the industry side of things, it doesn't help that the expectations are so colossal after decades of flogging only physical product. But the amount of revenue streams is greater than ever so the smart ones are still making bank. 

Do you guys still visit musical instrument shops and do you think they’re still important?

All the time – especially on tour when we break stuff. We're on tour right now and we will be going to the local shop in Leipzig tomorrow for some cables and Bass strings.

Our tours always start in London and the trip to Denmark Street with a shopping list is a necessary part of the ritual. Also, you should never buy a guitar without playing it first. Brick and mortar music shops are essential and the good ones can be quite inspiring.  

What does the band have planned for the rest of the year and in 2017?

Hectic touring until the end of November and then probably fall into a coma over winter and hope to awake with a new album written.

In 2017 we are planning some special one off collaborations. We have a lot of ideas for what to do next for LP3. The start of a new recording is usually the most enjoyable part so we’re looking forward to that.

CIVIL CIVIC will be playing at The Victoria in Dalston on November 26th. Find out and buy tickets at

You can listen to CIVIL CIVIC’s new album THE TEST in full on SoundCloud below:

Tags: Interviews , Civil Civic

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